In terms of search volume, Google eats Bing for breakfast. And the widespread use of the Android operating system contributes its part to Google’s dominance. But Bing and Microsoft are a Phoenix in full-rebirth mode. As Google faces antitrust allegations and Cortana meets the Windows 10 Taskbar, Microsoft may soon turn the tables.
Bing is Capturing Markets
Microsoft’s Bing search engine has captured more than 20% of the US search market for the first time since launching in 2009. This is a significant milestone and signals Microsoft intentions moving forward: we are here, we are involved in search, and people are valuing our service.
Bing’s rise has come alongside a decrease in traffic for search-partner Yahoo! – though as Bing powers the Yahoo! search engine anyway, one could argue that there is no overall loss. Rather, if we include the Bing powered Yahoo search engine the Microsoft search engine market share rockets to around 33%. Still not as mighty as Google’s 64%, but a sign that Bing is well and truly on the up.
Where and What Are They Capturing?
Google still well and truly dominates the European search market. Over 90% of all search is completed using Google – but this figure is down from 95% in June 2011, and could be set to tumble further. Bing is already making waves in UK search as individuals begin to back away from Google‘s all-encompassing platform.
Further to this, Google is under serious scrutiny. After dropping the browser ballot that restricted Internet Explorer, the European Union has now accused Google of abusing its position of power by distorting Internet search results, favoring it’s Google Shopping service over other, cheaper options. It’s a clear breach of EU antitrust rules and is likely to see Google altering their search algorithm, as well as the potential for a large fine.
That said, Microsoft is somewhat familiar with this rep, paying some $497 million to Sun Microsystems after their own monopoly case, and are notably one of the previous complainants to the EU this time around.
Regardless of the outcome of any pending court hearings, allegations such as this damage Google’s “nice” image. It could encourage a steady trickle of individuals to float back to the clutches of Microsoft, especially given the year ahead.
It isn’t all down to Google dropping the ball, though. Microsoft has legitimately positioned themselves as the pretender to the throne with an integration strategy Google would be proud of. Bing is now the default search tool for Xbox, Windows, Windows Phone, Office, and Bing-powered desktop assistant Cortana is set to pick up the baton when it is released integrated with Windows 10 later this year.
And talking of Windows 10, Microsoft estimates there are around 1bn retail-consumers ready to make the switch to an operating system deeply ingrained with the Bing search engine. Windows 10 will pilot Bing in a new manner entirely, bringing a desktop Bing search bar that will always be accessible. A permanent, long-lasting search feature for Windows desktop users. With so many users apathetic toward altering their basic settings, Bing would likely remain as the default search engine for many millions of users.
Bing has further plans for its search engine, too. We are likely to see advanced real-time search functionality, whereby search is completed in real-time with a number of contextual information overlays appearing, potentially reducing the overall requirements for typing. Tools like this can make a real difference. If we can directly search from our desktop, with the correct corresponding contextual information appearing as a desktop overlay rather than opening a browser, many individuals will make the switch. At the very least, Microsoft will receive a massive amount of goodwill from computer users, encouraging innovation with consumers in mind.
Look at it this way: on your desktop will be two direct search functions, both Bing operated. You’re likely to choose one for ease of use. The rest, as they say, will be history.
There is also increased chatter concerning a potential buyout of Nokia’s HERE Maps. When Microsoft swooped for Nokia’s mobile division in 2014, it left HERE Maps business to Nokia to deal with. Nokia has since had great and ongoing success licensing their cartographic data to companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, car manufactures, and a number of other mobile operating systems.
This may have to change, if Microsoft is to continue its cross-platform integration plans. HERE has been steadily gaining interest from a number of global companies, as well as private equity firms and direct competitors alike. As Microsoft derives all of its map data from HERE Maps, it would be a significant blow were it to fall into the hands of Apple, Google, or Facebook. One can only surmise, that if any of those competitors were to acquire HERE, they would push Microsoft out, or at least charge them a significant fee to re-license their maps.
With location dependent search so important to our digitized mobile society, a loss like this could seriously set Microsoft and the Bing search engine back. With a mooted market price of $1-2bn, Microsoft would be shortsighted to let this fish off the line.
Transparency for the Future
It is difficult to quantify how important search engines have become to our lives. Their sociopolitical and economic influence is obscured by their inherent usefulness to our day-to-day. They are vast, global reservoirs of human data tracked by bots to enable us to share information that little bit easier. When we consider the almost surreal amount of data processed by the search engines, it becomes clear that manipulating data would be relatively easy for those at the top of the pile; that the consumer may not even be aware is testament to the lack of diversity in the market.
Indeed, many consumers wouldn’t even consider that their results were skewed. Why would we? We trust Google, Microsoft, and countless other tech companies with our sensitive data and nothing bad usually happens, so why would this be any different?
Google is still ahead in many critical search sectors. I’m not sure too many could argue against that. But Microsoft are moving forward, rapidly in some cases. Expect this pace to increase as we move toward the Windows 10 release. With integration abound, it’s a great time to be a consumer!
Have you made the switch? What do you prefer? Does Microsoft’s increasing search integration worry you, or are you happy to be clear of Google?
Image Credits: Monopoly via Wikimedia Commons